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NYT: Pres. Trump Questions Authenticity of Access Hollywood; Source: Pres. Trump Questioned Politics of Disavowing Obama Birther Claim; Trump Retweets Ultra-Nationalist Anti-Muslim Videos Hits Back at British PM, Don't Focus on Me, Focus on Terror in U.K.; Matt Lauer Fired Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Breaking news tops the hour. It's also a piece of a picture of a president appearing to disengage from certain realities of he himself once acknowledged and in one instance, that he himself even apologized for. He apologized for what he said on that "Access Hollywood" tape about being able to grab women's genitals and get away with it. Now, according to deeply sourced reporting of "The New York Times", he's been casting doubt on the veracity of that at least three people, whether it's his voice on that tape.

Also, there's new reporting that the President has readopted his old doubts about former President Obama's birth certificate. And the breaking news from CNN Jim Acosta, late word tonight that the President believes that he would have won more votes had he not abandoned those birther beliefs. Earlier tonight, I spoke with two former White House insiders about what it says to them, CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen and former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod.


COOPER: David Axelrod, how concerned are you that tonight the President of the United States seems to be operating in a different reality when it comes to any number of topics?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I am concerned, Anderson, because I sat next to the Oval Office for a couple of years. I saw the kinds of issues that come across that desk. I know the power that is repost in that office. And if the person who sits there is delusional, that poses all kinds of very, very frightening scenarios.

And when you read particularly the things that he's saying in private, the denial of his own comments that were on tape, the rehashing of the discredited birther theory, going back to the votes in the election and the notion that he actually won the popular vote, these are delusional comments. And it is very, very unsettling to think that the President of the United States would harbor them.

COOPER: David Gergen, I mean, is there -- is it possible there's some sort of strategy here? Christopher Ruddy, a friend of the President and the head of Newsmax basically says there's no different to what President Kennedy did with Camelot, that all presidents have, in his words, written and shape their own myths?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Oh it's such nonsense. After Camelot was actually project Kennedy's desk and uses narrative during his life was something Kennedy talked to Teddy White about.

Listen, I don't think we know for certain. There could be other reasons behind this or could be -- this could be totally a diversion so we're not talking about the tax bill every night. And he said that he would -- might have more trouble passing it, could be a diversion because things are -- something has been triggered by Mueller or elsewhere. He's just really, really unhappy as Maggie Haberman has been suggesting for the "The New York Times".

But I do think that more serious, a most serious question is whether he's losing his grip. And it is -- that is very dangerous as David Axelrod said. You know, both of us have been there at the White House. The President occasionally has to make really, really tough decisions that are a matter of life and death and you want a man with absolutely clear mind and able to absorb things.

It's reached the point, Anderson, what I've been wondering whether his family and some of the top people in the White House ought to be conferring among themselves about what might be called and other ways some sort of intervention and really try to help him because it's so important to the country.

COOPER: David, I just want to drill down with you on this. You're suggesting -- you think that things have -- or that there are questions about his, I don't know, his frame of mind and his family should do an intervention or think about an intervention?

GERGEN: I believe, Anderson, that there's sufficient questions. We don't have answers. And those of us on the outside really don't know what's going on as well as we should. But if you look at the overall pattern of behaviors and the questions that arise, and the seriousness of this, then you have to say, shouldn't people in the White House be and trying to help him? And if it requires an intervention on their judgment, yes, you have to do that.

COOPER: David Axelrod, I mean maybe some supporters say, well, look, this may be not traditionally presidential behavior, but I mean does it really rise to the level that, you know, the word intervention is being used?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think -- that's why I made the distinction between his private comments and what he's done publicly. He's had a series of provocative, really despicable tweets in the last 24 hours that seem unhinged but could be written off to some strategic, you know, objective. But the fact that he in private conversations earnestly declares that things that are just not so, you know, are real that, you know, somehow these of any kind conspiracy theories are reality, that's very, very unsettling. I think there's much different -- [21:05:14] COOPER: But there are people --

AXELROD: -- and his public pronouncements.

COOPER: There are people who say, look, this is what he's done all his career, you know, as a real estate developer. He sort of, you know, I guess to paraphrase Christopher Ruddy, kind of invented his own myth and, you know, talked about the building being the biggest buildings or -- even if they weren't. Couldn't this just be an extension of what he's always done except we're all now just seeing it up close and the stakes are that much higher because you have, you know, the possibility of war in North Korea?

AXELROD: Well, yes. I mean -- well, you know, honestly, I really didn't care very much of what he did -- about what he did when he was a real estate developer. Now he's got nuclear weapons, OK. Now, he is the most powerful man on the planet. So it really does matter whether he's delusional or not.

I don't think that it is a strategy to say, you know, that tape that you heard my voice on that I admitted was my voice and that I apologized for, I actually don't think that was my voice. And, you know, by the way, in all of this I'm wondering where is Billy Bush who was standing there when the conversation took place, lost his job and apologized for the conversation, I wonder what he has to say about the President's recollections on this.

No, I don't think, Anderson, this is not sort of within the realm, even of Trump lore. This just seems completely unhinged.

COOPER: David Axelrod, David Gergen --

GERGEN: And, Anderson, in that situation -- you know, just in that situation, look, they don't need to make a big deal, they don't need to do anything publicly. But when a president is having some trouble, you normally have his doctor talk to him, understand him, what's going on. That happens regularly in presidency, especially as people get older. And, you know, it shouldn't shock us but rather I think those -- the outside just need to say if the President need some help, if he needs some, you know, whatever that help may be, he should get it. It would be good for him, it would be good for the country.

COOPER: Do you remember the candidate Trump? Do you remember his doctor and his doctor's letter?



AXELROD: Did you want the gastroenterologist to make these judgments? I don't know.

GERGEN: Well, I think that's a point.

COOPER: Yes. David Gergen and David Axelrod, thank you.


A quick reminder, David Axelrod's guest on the "Axe Files" this weekend is Tom Hanks, you can see it Saturday night 7:00 Eastern Time.

I want to bring in the panel, Kirsten Powers, Paul Begala, Jim Schultz, Amanda Carpenter, Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, and Alice Stewart.

Kirsten, I mean is this just unusual presidential behavior or is this something to be concerned about?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: I mean it's obviously something to be concerned about but I don't know that it's any crazier than insisting that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States. If you sort of go back through his various conspiracy theories, I think that this is something that he's done for a long time.

COOPER: Which he said to be, I mean, relitigating with some people privately.

POWERS: Right. Well, I mean, and so -- but I think that this -- he has long had a sort of distorted reality. I think that he -- this idea that he sees things differently, that he can kind of change what really happened, I don't know, I feel like this is kind of consistent with who he's been and maybe it seems a little more extreme because he is the president of the United States and he's -- you know. It's so dangerous. It seem worse, but I -- it does seem consistent with the person who's the running the president -- for president to me.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But, Kirsten, I think he's back sliding, right?


BEGALA: He did come out almost under the rest and say, OK, President Obama was born in America, period. Now, he -- he's apparently questioning that. He apologized for the "Access Hollywood" tape. He said, I said it and I'm sorry. Now, he apparently telling people he didn't. So I do worry. I would have a slightly different plan frankly than Gergen. It's not the family's responsibility. It's not. He has got a complex family. Some of them are advisers, some of them are not.

I wouldn't put that burden on them. This is General Kelly's job. He's the White House Chief of Staff. He's a four-star Marine general. There is some precedent for this in 1986 during the Iran-Contra. President Reagan's testimony was very cloudy and he had a new chief of staff Howard Baker, long time senator for Tennessee, Baker asked the staff person to follow him around, just check, do you think he's up to the job? The staffer did and said, yes, actually he's fine. There's no need to look at the 25th Amendment.

You know, he's older. He had a bald memory but that's not a problem. That sort of thing I think could -- should be going on on the staff level right now. They -- General Kelly is a patriot. He owes it to the Constitution, not to any particular man who holds the office but to the office itself.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, honestly though, it should be more than General Kelly, it should be particularly every Republican in Washington. There were two Senate Republicans today, Cory Gardner was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer earlier, what do you think about (INAUDIBLE), I didn't see them, Orrin Hatch, same thing, I didn't see them. Ad then he says he's the best president I've ever served. This is ridiculous. We're getting into possibly very dangerous confrontations with foreign leaders.

[21:10:00] It's on everybody because I do think the "Access Hollywood" apology and the dropping of the birther conspiracy during the campaign shows when he is surrounded, he will back down, but he has to be surrounded to have no other way out. And it can be done, but it takes force.


JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: I'm a lawyer. I work in the world of evidence and facts. And right now, we just -- we keep on saying apparent, everyone keep saying apparent around this table and on the television all day today. We don't have any facts.

COOPER: But -- I mean there's reporting -- three sources from "The New York Times".

SCHULTZ: But everyone says these are apparent comments that he's made. No one's talking about context, nobody is talking about voracity. Yes, it's the chief of staff's job to have these discussions with the president, and until the White House comes out and says that these things -- these are positions of the White House or positions of the president, that hasn't happened.

COOPER: Do you think if the president is publicly saying to three people that's an -- I don't think that's me on the "Access Hollywood" tape and if he's rebringing up the Barack Obama citizenship, that would be of concern to you?

SCHULTZ: It would be a concern, but the White House isn't saying that. As a matter of fact, they're saying just the opposite. They're saying they're taking the same position during the campaign, which was those issues were acknowledged and in some cases, apologized for.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ FOR PRESIDENT: I have been speaking to people, I speak with them at the White House, I'm not hearing any of these pushback on the "Access Hollywood" tape or more on President Obama and the birther issue. But I'm -- that's not to say it's not being said. That's not what I'm hearing from a large group of people.

To the question of whether or not he's competent to be president and Axelrod and Gergen were talking about possible doing an intervention, maybe getting his doctor and we all remember his doctor, Patch Adams, the modern day version of Patch Adams, who said he was under the best health of all. I don't think it's so much a competency issue, but it's a credibility issue. The credibility of this White House is under question.

When we have a president who is so obsess at pointing fake news that he will push out fake videos and he will push fake conspiracies, that's the problem. And I think that is something that we really need to get to the bottom of and demanding factual, accurate information out of this White House.

COOPER: Michael, I mean you profiled him when he was, you know, a citizen Trump and a real estate developer. Is this what -- I mean this is from everybody we've talked to, this is what he did back then, create his own reality.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": It's a life-long pattern. It goes back to the 1970s. But I do think he's getting worse. And I think that part of that may be that we're exposed to more what he says that more people hear it, more people are going to the press to talk about it.

COOPER: Well, it matters more to people.

D'ANTONIO: It matters more. It matters to the world. And before it didn't matter to the world, it mattered to some bankers who lost money and other investors and all kinds of folks who got hurt by his mistakes and his distortions. But this is now a distorted leader of the free world. These -- and there are facts here. The tweets you were talking about of these conspiracy theories, ideas, these are facts. And I think the White House record of distortion and lies in going back to try and correct what the President has said in the past, those are facts.

So we're now in a situation where we're being led by a person who denies reality. And this starts being self-defeating, and then it becomes self-destructive. And it becomes destructive for the company.

COOPER: Let's take a quick -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

SCHULTZ: The timing of all this and the speculation just calls the whole thing into question.

CARPENTER: Well, I think the timing is he's reflecting on the 2016 elections preparing for what he's going to do for the midterms in '20. His messaging with regards to Democrats has been very good. He's looking for a narrative to carry into 2018.


COOPER: We'll continue this conversation after a quick break. Also later, Matt Lauer's firing from the "Today" show, some truly extraordinary details of what he allegedly did.


[21:17:00] COOPER: Well, as Michael D'Antonio said before the break, behavior we're seeing from the President fits in his view a pattern that goes back decades, denying reality, not backing down, not apologizing. Here's CNN political analyst, "New York Times" White House correspondent and veteran Trump whisperer, Maggie Haberman, how she put it in our first half.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that you have to think what this presidency that we keep looking for a bottom where there's just a limit that he's not going to go any further in terms of either his conduct to reinventing history or something. And there is no bottom. He will just keep doing this.

So I think if you look at it in that context, it's not surprising. It is, however, very hard to wrap your mind around because, to your point, this is one of the few times that we had ever heard him --

COOPER: He apologized.

HABERMAN: He apologized and he acknowledged it was him and there is no kernel of truth where he -- that he can point to which is often what he does. But what he has been doing his entire career and, you know this very well, is sort of trying to will certain facts as he wants them to be into existence.


COOPER: There is an alternative theory on this which you, I guess, could argue, which is that maybe there's a strategy for him to, you know, again, assuming their reporting is correct and I have no reason to doubt it because their reporting is help up very well over the last year on this president, particularly Maggie and her team. I mean is it -- is there some strategy in bringing up the Obama birth certificate thing again or the "Access Hollywood" tape?

BEGALA: There could be. I have -- I had believed that he's got a strategy even when he says things that are false. I wanted to believe and I do have believed it, in some pursuit of strategy. This week, I'm beginning to question that.

COOPER: Or it could be to distract from North Korea or to distract from the tax.

BEGALA: The tax bill is actually hugely unpopular, and yet it's likely to pass. So more attention on the tax bill that should be bad for passing the tax bill. So there is perhaps a strategy here. But when you combine that with other reports from the people closest to him, from the secretary of state, who apparently called our President a moron, General McMaster was reported in a private conversation to call him an idiot. These aren't Democrats trying to undermine him. These are his closest aides.

And so, I'm beginning -- I'm shifting. I want to -- it's crazy in a sense but I want to believe he's just dishonest, not delusional.

POWERS: But I think -- I do think some of it is a distraction he wants to send people screwing around and find this. He has some very bigoted views. I mean we see it in his announcement talking about Mexicans as rapists and some of them are fine people. And I think he believes these things about Muslims as well. And so I think that he tweets a stuff out thinking that this is in fact the problem that's facing the world, that if you let Muslims into your country they're going to smash statues of the Virgin Mary as if this is some national threat in the U.K. or in the United States. I think he believes that. And so he has no problem tweeting this out. He doesn't see any problem with it. You see Sarah Sanders defending it saying well, this is what we have to be worried about. It's like let's get worried about someone attacking someone on crutches. Like this isn't even -- this is not a real threat in the world. But they believe that it is.


[21:20:00] SCHULTZ: Maybe it wasn't the best timing and the best choice, because of the time when we were -- when he should really be talking about tax reform and talking about North Korea, and particularly, tax reform because we're going to get a win there.


CARPENTER: -- reminds me up and I think it's important to look a little bit at history because I do think trump is not delusional. He's being very politically savvy. And I don't endorse what he's doing. But these issues are good for Republicans as the same way anti-communism was good for McCarthy in the 1950s. I mean looking back to the speech he gave in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he said, I have a list of 218 people who are communist, working inside United States government.

He never ever produced that list, but then it get down to 58 and 10, and four. We had month of hearings and millions of millions people tuned in and watched and it was the biggest show on earth and it was a great issue for Republicans. Ultimately he was centered. He died in office and it went away but it paved the way for Richard Nixon.

And so these issues are very powerful. Trump tapped into an anti- immigrant resentment fear and now I think he's trying a way to do that with the fears of radical Islam. He did that --


COOPER: But you're saying he's talking about real issues. I mean, again, he's tweeting out videos from an, you know, a far-right British hate group --


CARPENTER: He's tapping into the threat, but he has no evidence.

COOPER: It's not just a political thing, it's not the way to do it. He's actually president of Muslims who live in this country. Our -- actually, our military foreign policy, our military policy, we are supporting Muslims in Iraq. We're fighting side by side with them. We have been fighting side by side with Muslims in Afghanistan. We've been --

SCHULTZ: We're not fighting side by side with radical Islamic terrorists.

COOPER: Right, but he's labeling everybody with the same broad brush.


POWERS: We'll give him some kind of credit for actually having some kind of a grand plans, we'll give him the credit that, look, this is what his base loves. Back in 2010, he's running governor rights. They were -- birthers were all coming out of the wood works trying to attach themselves to a candidate and clearly, he wants to continue to give read meat to his base when it comes to the Muslim ban and anti- immigration --

COOPER: I mean David Duke tweeted, you know, thank God for Trump today.

POWERS: So in his mind, he's tweeting out these fake videos to throw red meat to his base and they're over here chewing on this read meat while the rest of us are going, if you want to talk about how to fight immigration and how to secure our borders and how to fund our military, let's talk about that. Don't tweet out these fake videos because now his team is now saying, well, he just wanted to talk about national security, he want to talk about immigration because Democrats are for amnesty. If that's what he wants to talk about, let's have a straightforward honest conversation.

COOPER: We're going to continue this discussion in a moment. We'll focus on those tweets, the retweets actually of far -- videos from a far-right group known as Britain First, when a British member of parliament, Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death last year, her killer reportedly shouted Britain First, what her widower has to say about the President's retweets, next on "360".


[21:25:55] COOPER: Well, today as we started talking about before the break, the President of the United States retweeted three violent disturbing videos. One seeming to show radical Islamist in Egypt, beating and killing people, another showing someone attacking a statue of the Virgin Mary, the third, allegedly showing Muslim migrant assaulting disabled youth in the Netherlands.

The President retweeted the videos from the Twitter account of the deputy leader of an extreme far-right group in England called Britain First. Last year, the leader of that group was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment for verbally abusing a Muslim women wearing a hijab. White supremacist David Duke, as I mentioned, was thrilled today, he said thank God for Trump, he tweeted.

Britain's Prime Theresa May was not thrilled. Through a spokesperson she said the President was wrong, "Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddles likes and stroke tensions. They anxiety to law-abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values what this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect." The President replied on Twitter, "Theresa May, don't focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that's taking place within the United Kingdom. We're doing just fine."

And right after that tweet, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who's third in line to the presidency weighed in defending the Prime Minister on Twitter and to the Prime Minister's point, the Britain First is a radical group. Last year Jo Cox a, member of British parliament and an outspoken supporter of immigration was murdered by a man reportedly shouting Britain First as he shot and stabbed her.

I spoke with Jo Cox's husband, Brendon, earlier tonight. He's some of what he said.


BRENDAN COX, WIDOWER OF MURDERED BRITISH MP JO COX: I think we probably got used to a degree of absurdity, of outrageous retweets and tweets from the President. But I think this felt like it was a different order. Here he was retweeting a felon, you know, somebody that was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment of an organization that is a hate-driven organization on the extreme fringes, the far, far right of British politics. This is like the President retweeting the Ku Klux Klan.

You know, this is not the mainstream organization for the President of the United States, our greatest ally as a country to be retweeting, to be providing a microphone to those voices. I think everybody, no matter what your political persuasion that you care, I think he's been shocked by that.


COOPER: One of those tweets, by the way, the President retweeted allegedly showing the migrant was actually a Dutch citizen, facts matter. Back with the panel.

Kirsten, I mean -- I don't know really what you really want to ask but --

POWERS: Well, I mean -- yes. It's absolutely shocking, there's some question about that. But he has done things like this before. You know, he's retweeted alt-right people and it doesn't seem to bother him.

And I just go back to the fact that I think this is what he believes. I think that he believes, you know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know, defended him saying he was just -- you know, this is a threat that we face, I guess meaning radical Islam. And I don't know a lot of people that would disagree that radical Islam is a problem, but that not what the videos showed. The videos did not show radical Islam, whether they're real or not. And that actually does matter even though she said it doesn't.

It just showed allegedly, you know, individual allegedly Muslims committing some sort of violence in the same way that he has talked about Mexicans picking out a random Mexican person who's done something bad and then putting that on all Mexicans and putting this on all Muslims. And so it's inherently racist what -- doing this is inherently racist. And I think it's what he thinks. I think that he --

SCHULTZ: Where did he put it on all Muslims in that tweet? Can you tell me where that is? I don't think it's there.

POWERS: What's the point of tweeting out three videos showing Muslims committing a crime? What is that proving?

SCHULTZ: Radical Islamic terrorists are two bad things.

POWERS: Radical Islamic terrorists don't --


POWERS: Hold on, hold on. He -- it was a video of somebody breaking a statue of Virgin Mary. Is that -- are you telling met that what we're afraid of, radical Islamist breaking -- smashing videos of the Virgin Mary?

SCHULTZ: In the context of the other things and the other videos, it's hard --


SCHULTZ: -- the bad things that radical Islamic terrorism represents.

[21:30:00] Look, I've said before, it's not the best choice of videos, without a doubt, they are fake videos. But for you to say that he's characterizing all Muslims, is just flat out wrong.

COOPER: But no. But how can you say that -- the whole idea of the video is to stoke fear and dislike of Muslims.

SCHULTZ: Oh yes. Bad choice by the originator of the video, probably, not this president.


COOPER: You think if the originator of the video made a bad choice and a bad choice, by the way, for a racist, bigoted internet troll which is what those people are, don't -- isn't it like a doubly bad choice or a triply bad choice for the president of the United States to pick up some internet troll did?


SCHULTZ: -- to use that internet troll as a -- that internet troll video as an example without question.


SCHULTZ: But for someone to then turn around and say that he's that now characterizing all Muslims that way is, that is flat out wrong. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Where is he praising Muslims or talking about Muslims who get attacked? Where is --

POWERS: What is the point of these videos of Muslims committing acts of violence? What is the point of that? You can't say radical Islam. This is not what radical Islamist do.


BEGALA: When a right-wing white guy allegedly ran down and murdered Heather Higher in Charlottesville, he did not say right-wing white guys are terrorists. He did not call for an investigation of the right-wing --

COOPER: So that actually said they are some very fine people --


STEWART: One of the things also in the interview you did with Mr. Cox that he said was very compelling and really right on is by the President retweeting these videos, it gave validation to anyone who wanted to push messages of hate against Muslims. And if the President can do it, then anyone else will do.

And this group is a --an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hate group over in Britain, and he basically gave them validation. And for her to come out and David Duke to come out and thank the president, I think that sends a really bad message of hate.


COOPER: When David Duke is singing your praises, that's for a particular thing you've done, I would think you might want to reexamine what you're doing if David Duke is the one --


COOPER: I don't know that he's -- because he's actually been asked directly about that and he claimed to not know who David Duke was even though he clearly did know who David Duke was. He declaim not to know really what white supremacy was in an interview with Jake Tapper, which is sort of the most unusual thing for any like sentient being to pretend not to know what white supremacy is.

D'ANTONIO: I think what Amanda said about how -- if you've been trying to insight the vision, then it is the thing that you do. This is a thing that Donald Trump has done for decades. We have to remember the Central Park Five incident. Before there were tweets, he spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertisements to spread division.

Ed Koch, the mayor of New York, was saying everybody calm down. Let's not crucify these kids before the justice system has a way to work. Donald Trump inflamed it, wanted us to commit to the death penalty on those fellows. And the cases go on and on and on. And he's detached from facts to get to radical Islamic terrorism in United States. Fewer than eight people in a year in America since 9/11 have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the United States. It's a problem, but it's not the thing the President needs to tweet three distortions about on a random morning.


SCHULTZ: The President has a tax bill right now that's going pass that's -- that is going to do good things for all Americans. And he was tweeting something that he shouldn't have been tweeting about.

BEGALA: His brand. He's -- this is what he knows. A bulk of his fortune is based on his brand, right? He licenses that Trump name, the hotels and golf courses and vineyards and all kinds of stuff, steak, vodka, I don't know, water. He knows that brand. When he retweets, he knows full well he's giving his brand and, frankly, our brand, the American brand, too far-right neo-Nazis.

By the way Saturday -- we haven't talked about that on Saturday, he retweeted from a website that Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, described as far-right anti-Semitic conspiracy website. So maybe he's an opportunity endorser of hatred but he knows what he's doing when he uses that Trump brand. And that's what he's doing

SCHULTZ: With a Jewish daughter and Jewish son-in-law and Jewish grandsons --

BEGALA: Why did he do it?


SCHULTZ: -- talk about anti-Semitism --

BEGALA: Why did he retweeted if he's --


D'ANTONIO: He did it when he was a casino owner. He said I want guys in yarmulkes counting my money. This guy has a problem with bigotry and he has had a problem with bigotry for decades.

CARPENTER: Well, the secret in any politician, you cannot unite. If you cannot unite, you divide, divide, divide, and then you take the scraps.

COOPER: Up next, our other big breaking news story tonight. Morning television icon out the door after sexual misconduct allegations. The latest on the allegations against Matt Lauer, what else could come out, next.


[21:38:45] COOPER: Our other breaking news tonight, long-time "Today Show" anchor, Matt Lauer, is out at NBC after a colleague reported alleged inappropriate sexual behavior. Here's part of how Savannah Guthrie, Lauer's co-anchor broke the news this morning.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST NBC'S "TODAY SHOW": I'm heartbroken for Matt, he is my dear, dear friend and my partner and he has been loved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell. And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks, how do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation they have behaved badly? And I don't know the answer to that.


COOPER: Although one allegation, however, is just the beginning, it seems tonight, there are new reports of accusations against Lauer, including several in a variety article that he allegedly dropped his pants in front of a female employee and wanted her to perform a sex act, broadly, also claims Lauer gave a different female employee a sex toy with an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her.

I want to bring back in our panel. Also joining the conversation is CNN media analyst, Bill Carter.

Bill, I mean, had there been rumor I mean -- you know, with Weinstein there had been rumors I guess --


COOPER: Were there rumors with Mat Lauer?

CARTER: You know, rumors about Matt being a player, I guess you might say, you know, I'd never heard rumors about sexual harassment about him.

[21:40:06] And it's very interesting to listen again to Savannah who says he's a beloved figure. You never heard that about Harvey Weinstein. You never heard that about Bill O'Reilly. That's an unusual situation when you have people saying that he was -- we loved this character and then you hear these really startling allegations, including a new one in the "Times" which is pretty graphic and awful about a sexual assault in the office.

CARPENTER: I think it's awkward to watch a woman have to go on the air and break that news and express grief and heartbreak and then have all these tragic, you know, horrifying details come out later. I don't know why they put her in that passion. To see all these women have to clean up the mess after these men, I think it's awkward and could be handled in a much better way because everyone's going to go back and look at that tape and say, well, why was she heartbroken? Was she in love with -- you know, it puts her in a very bad position. And these networks need to stop doing that.

POWERS: You know, but I also think there is this problem, you know, Sarah Silverman talked about this with Louis C.K. because they've been friends for 25 years and she said, you know, this is -- she loves him and they're good friends and then he did these bad things and how do you reconcile those things. And I think that's a real thing. You know, people do bad things. Good people do bad things. It doesn't mean that they are irredeemably evil and there's nothing good about them. Sometimes you have people who are real jerks, the Harvey Weinsteins of the world and sometimes you have people who -- people are really beloved. I know people at the "Today Show" love Matt Lauer, you know, and love working with him.


POWERS: And then you have to understand that sometimes good people do bad things.

BEGALA: Well, I think Savannah Guthrie was completely transparent in a way that I think NBC needs to be. They had still not really told us why they fired their star anchor with the variety report is shocking. I haven't seen "The New York Times" yet.

But I thought what we saw from Savannah Guthrie was a serious news person dealing with a serious news story about someone she'd been working well with for many years and I think she just -- I thought she was very authentic and very transparent. Like this is what I'm going through, I haven't figured it out yet either.

COOPER: I'm wondering -- but from the legal standpoint, if you heard something in the NBC statement -- to me, you know, they said current -- you know, the current management did not receive any complaints which seems to distinguish it from prior management. I don't know if that was intentional or not but it certainly raises questions in my mind.

SCHULTZ: Yes, I think there was probably -- there was likely an investigation, there was likely some internal work that went on there. Who knows how they handle things internally there, but there were certainly folks from -- in a legal capacity looking at this thing.

CARTER: Yes. I think you do have to put this in some context of what's going on throughout the media, obviously entertainment business and obviously the political world. This is kind of an epidemic. It's always been there and now it's come out. And, you know, I think there's an awful a lot of behavior that's clearly been under the radar that's pretty out there and offensive and it's -- it needs to be exposed.

COOPER: And that was interesting. Geraldo Rivera tweeted out --



COOPER: -- earlier something about said the news is a flirty business.

POWERS: Right. Which is, you know -- and I -- that's just telling, I think. I think that maybe there are a lot of men who think that. I think a lot of women would say, no, it actually isn't a flirty business but --


POWERS: I think that for a long time the media was such a boys club and the men were sort of used to doing what they wanted to do and there weren't a lot of women in positions of power to push back. So Geraldo's kind of, you know, he's been around for a long time and I think that he's speaking, you know, that that was his impression that this is what -- but I don't think the women think that. You know, women, I don't think of it as a flirty business even if there are people who --

CARTER: The media and the entertainment industry, there are a lot of women attracted to that business and they didn't have positions of power and they need jobs and they like jobs and they were easily taken advantage of for that reason.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. Sexual misconduct in the workplace clearly not just a problem in the media. Over the last couple weeks, we've also heard allegations against lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They're still on their jobs. Up next, we'll hear from Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice who left a meeting with members of her own party today because she says they're not taking the issue seriously.


[21:47:58] COOPER: More on our breaking news tonight, Matt Lauer out at NBC facing sexual misconduct allegations. He had his media figures, like Lauer, quickly condemned and fired, politicians referring differently when sexual misconduct allegations come out. Men like Congressman John Conyers, Senator Al Franken are staying in office, that's on top of at least two yet unnamed lawmakers who reportedly settled with their accusers using taxpayer money but are still serving.

I spoke to Democratic Congressman Kathleen Rice about the issue. Here's what she said.


REP. KATHLEEN RICE, (D) NEW YORK: Where are the professional consequences for the abusers? We in Congress, right here right now at this seminal moment in this country's history have the opportunity to say we are going to lean on this issue and we are not going to allow this kind of abusive environment to exist anymore.


COOPER: I want to bring back in our panel. Is there a double standard here for how people in the private, you know, private businesses are finally being -- how it's being addressed and how it's being addressed in the public realm, I mean the political realm?

POWERS: Yes. I mean there seems to be a higher standard for morning news hosts than there is for members of Congress. I mean that's the way it looks right now. So morning news anchor gets held to a higher standard. This idea of due process, I mean due process is a legal issue. I mean, nobody is actually going to through a trial and have real due process. You're going to have somebody look at it and say is this a credible accusation. Like the "Today Show" presumably what did with Matt Lauer and different people have done, I mean, for some reason, the Democrats seem to think that, you know, a John Conyers or an Al Franken deserves some sort of higher level, you know, or shouldn't be held at the same standard as Matt Lauer. And I just don't think that's right thinking they're held to a higher standard.

COOPER: Well, this --

CARPENTER: I would say, here's what blows my mind politically about all these for the Democrats. The closest thing that the Democrats and progressives have to the Tea Party was the woman's march that materialized out of nowhere the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. That political power has nowhere to go. If I were a Democratic operative, I would be trying to find a woman in Congress to somehow become the leader of that, early supposed or person for that. And note, where that Nancy Pelosi blew that in the Sunday morning interview by saying that, well at John Conyers is an icon.

[21:50:02] Elizabeth Warren could conceivably lead that movement but she doesn't seem up for the job. Kathleen Rice, I see potential for her there because that energy needs somewhere to go as a response to Donald Trump. I would think if they want to be successful but until they figure out a way to do that, it's just going to further (ph) away.

SCHULTZ: And there's a huge debate going on in the private sectors that relates to these types of cases and the labor and employment roles. The employment role world where the plaintiff's bar who represents the victims and the Defense Department represents the corporations. A lot of times, you are agreeing on the fact that the confidentiality agreements are a good thing. Because what it does is encourage -- it keeps it from heading to litigation, where, you know, all of this gets aired out in the court of law.

And there won't be settlements and folks who were confidentiality agreements don't exist. They maybe say, OK, we're going to take this to the Matt and I'm going to defend my reputation to the end, regardless of the allegations, because I feel I -- that the person who has been accused feels that they need to be vindicated in court.

So the whole issue that changes when it relates to the public sector, I think. So there's a real question as to when taxpayer dollars are involved, what is the accountability of Congress? What's the accountability, what's the process there to hold folks accountable and look at these issues and determine whether they need to be made public or not.

BEGALA: And I'm just -- Dana Bash was reporting today about the process though which a victim reports harassment by congressman.

COOPER: Right. BEGALA: But in the Matt Lauer case, apparently the woman and her attorney went to NBC H.R., they investigated immediately, and within 48 hours, the guy was gone.

Apparently, there's four, five, six hoops that a victim has to go through.

COOPER: Right, it's clearly stuck against the victim.

BEGALA: It completely stuck against the victim. And then these agreements are sealed, we never know about them and they're paying them off with our money. Shareholder's money is one thing that's for the corporation and the shareholders aside. But this is taxpayer's money, they got to reform that.

CARTER: The news -- a news organization, it has to be transparent with how could they cover this, how do they cover any of the other stories if they cover up their own --


COOPER: But that thing, you now look at Matt Lauer grilling Bill O'Reilly about, you know, text messages and --

CARTER: And it looks ridiculous and embarrassing that that happened. But for news organization and media organization, they can't play the game that the politicians are playing with this. And say, you know, it's not so serious, and we're going to cover it up or we're going to deny it. And I think that when NBC -- they sort of listen long ago, but at least they acted when this story was come, they acted, they did act.

SCHULTZ: And there's certainly needs to be mandatory training. Some states, like California require attorney on behalf of the corporations to require training on these issues, certainly that needs to happen in Congress. And --

CARPENTER: Does it matter when you elect somebody like Roy Moore? I mean seriously.

BEGALA: Or Donald Trump, who had 12 women by name have accused him of harassment. And the American people more voted for Hillary, but still, enough voted for Donald Trump that he could sneak through the Electoral College.

COOPER: Yes, Kirsten, are you going to say something.

POWERS: I was just going to say, well, the other thing is but the Congress is non -- this NDAs (ph) where you can't talk about the new thing. But then Conyers can continue talking and his lawyer can continue talking.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: But the woman can never come out and say anything. And so I think that she needs to be released from that anyway. SCHULTZ: Well, if you look at it in the context of the private sector world, where both parties come to an agreement on a confidentiality agreement, that's strikingly different from mandating it upon staff in the government.

COOPER: We got to take a break. Thanks, everybody, for being on the show.

Coming up, something to makes you smile in a long day kind of weird day. The Ridiculist is next.


[21:57:01] COOPER: Time now for The Ridiculist. And we know there's a lot that's competing for your attention on daily basis. So this might have slip under your radar. We've all been using the word Velcro Wrong. The company that makes Velcro would like to know that Velcro is a brand name and you shouldn't say Velcro unless it is actual brand name Velcro. And inexpressibly they made a song about it.


COOPER: Yes. So if you say Velcro, you're ripping up the brand, much like ripping off that's sweet, sweet Velcro on Velcro's sneakers. Now, at his point, you may ask yourself, what you're supposed to call Velcro it if it's not actual Velcro but knockoff Velcro? And that, my friends, that's where the chorus comes in.


COOPER: I just going to tell them right now nobody's going to call it hook and loop. I got a few questions, first of all, how do you know if it's actual Velcro or just nasty old hook and loop. Yes, or H&L as I like to call it.

Also, why did they make a song about this? Oh, yes, because we put it on TV and I've said Velcro 13 times in the past 80 seconds. The song, I guess, is kind of catchy, but it sort of reminds me of when they tried to make a Dunder Mifflin jingle on the office.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I hate it, I hate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't hate it. I just don't like it at all.


COOPER: Now, the Velcro people are not just concern with their own brand. They would like you to remind you of other things that you're saying wrong, and yes, they're going to sing it.

(MUSIC) COOPER: And what hook and loop segment would be complete without showing you the last time they got this much attention in the 80's when a Velcro executive joined David Letterman for this bit of TV magic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll hit the wall and stay there, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, theoretically.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As high as I can go.



COOPER: Now, that's how to make brand recognition stick on The Ridiculist. Good luck, Velcro.

Thanks for watching "360". Time to turn things over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: This CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

And we have breaking news on the Russia investigation. CNN learning exclusively that Jared Kushner has met with Robert Mueller's investigators to answer question --